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What I Do (and Don’t) Know About West Virginia

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Through 4 games, the picture is clear and muddy about West Virginia Football

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Do

The Stills brothers are a force of nature. Through four games, they have been wrecking balls on the defensive line, totaling 7 sacks between them. Darius Stills grabbed three sacks in the first two games and his brother Dante had one against JMU and three more against N.C. State Wolfpack and Kansas Jayhawks. The brothers from Fairmont, WV have single handedly given the West Virginia Mountaineers a defensive line that can take over games.

Don’t

Just how good is the offense? The first two games the Mountaineers looked completely inept, unable to find timing, rhythm and an identity. After tweaks, changes and dressing-down by the head coach, Neal Brown, the offense had an awakening. Still, after the Kansas game, where they looked better, they still struggled. The passing offense in general is able to keep the chains moving, but there are no big plays to be found. The run game has been better, but they are needing tempo and misdirection just to find holes. There are a lot of questions about how good the offense can be. More importantly, can they find enough when they play teams with elite Big 12 offenses?

Do

The coaching staff can make adjustments. In the first half against James Madison, the Mountaineers trailed at halftime 7-3. The staff was able to slow the game down and held the Dukes to two field goals, two punts and an interception in the 2nd half. Against Missouri, the lopsided score in the first half didn’t reflect the second half effort. The only points the Tigers scored was on a pick-six. Against the NCSt Wolfpack, a 21-21 game at halftime became a 44-27 laugher that saw the head coach kneeling on an extra point. Against Kansas, a Keith Washington turned the 2nd half back-and-forth affair into a breathable 29-17 score that gave everyone some extra room to make plays.

Don’t

Is this a bowl team? Right now the Mountaineers sit at 3-1 and are halfway to bowl eligibility. Still, where are the other three wins going to come from? Texas has scored at least 36 points in every game this season and Sam Ehlinger has a 15:1 TD/INT ratio. Iowa State is 2-2 but they nearly pulled the game away from Baylor and have a tough loss to Iowa who they just can’t beat. Oklahoma again looks like a College Football Playoff team. Baylor is 4-0.

Texas Tech Red Raiders are struggling and got blown off the ball by the Sooners. They also lost to the Arizona Wildcats, so possibly there is your fourth win. The Kansas State Wildcats didn’t look so hot against OSU but they were just ranked 24th. Maybe there is your fifth win. Then you have the Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs to end the season. Will the Mountaineers win either game?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Do

Sam James is legit star already. James has taken to the coaching staff and offensive play calling like a fish to water. The first two games saw James catch 11 passes but for less than 70 yards. In the past two games, he’s caught 15 passes for 196 yards. Despite being only 6’-0” and 186 pounds, James looks bigger, faster and tougher than the cornerbacks he is going against right now. His cuts have been sharp, he has used his hands to snatch the ball out of the air and his sprinter speed to just outrun players. Only a redshirt freshman, the Mountaineers still have at least another couple of years to enjoy watching James come into his own and develop into a special player.

Don’t

How will all of these young guys hold up to the grind that is a football season? One of the biggest question marks for the team is what can they expect out of all of these freshmen and sophomore players? Not many have had to experience the daily grind of traveling to Waco, to Fort Worth, to Manhattan, and back and playing 70 to 90 snaps while doing class work. Some got experience last year but not many. As the season grinds on and they have to manage the daily life of a college student along with trying to make plays on the field, will they be able to mentally hold up? Will they physically hold up? Does the coaching staff have enough players to give guys an extra two or three plays off throughout a game?

Do

This is the right coaching staff. Through the first four games, we’ve seen the gamut of everything. The struggles against an inferior opponent who was good enough to beat you, the beating against a superior opponent, the bounceback against a team who might actually be worse than you and the toughness against a team looking to take the next step. This staff has tapped into the essence of West Virginia has is building something. Mountaineer fans seem united with the new coach and the new staff and there is a breath of fresh air around the state. This staff has taken opportunities to let the fans know they are here for them, they have taken chances to get the players to understand how much this team means to the fans and the development in just one month is noticeable to everyone.